From the Editor’s Desk

Emily Wells

Technical Communicators of Florida and Beyond,

Welcome to 2020! A new year, a new decade, and a new newsletter! Alright, a little over the top, but I’m excited for the new year and what it may bring. But first, let me bring you this month’s newsletter:

This month, we have our Future Technical Communicators (FTC)/STC annual meeting at the University of Central Florida (UCF). This year’s theme is Tech Comm Career Paths, focusing again on the many different career pathways available for a technical communicator. For more information, visit the RSVP page.

Next, last month, we shared more on the new graduate scholarship at UCF, inspired by our very own Mike Murray. This month, Bernard King shares about how our chapter helped give back to the community in other ways this past holiday season.

Speaking of Mike, this month he’s sharing some words of wisdom and encouragement as part of his Excellence column, helping kick off a new decade, and a new section in our chapter’s history.

Finally, we have not one, but two January meeting recaps (Lessons from New Tech Comm Professionals), both from first-time MtM writers! First James Yunik sets the stage, providing the 411 on the helpful advice and main topics covered by the panelists. Next, Connor Elfrink shares his take on his first chapter meeting (welcome Connor!), as well as some key takeaways.

That’s all from me for now. I hope to see you at the meeting.

Catch you on the flip side,

Emily Wells
Communications Chair
Editor, Memo To Members
newsletter@stc-orlando.org

Florida Chapter Gives Back to the Community

By: Bernard King
Student Member
Florida Chapter, STC

During the 2019 holiday season, the Florida Chapter donated more than $100 worth of gift cards and pantry items to the Harbor House of Central Florida. Harbor House is an organization that works to prevent and eliminate domestic abuse in Central Florida by providing critical life-saving services to survivors, as well as educating the community on navigating the justice system and utilizing resources to cope with the effects of domestic abuse. We’d like to take this moment to outline what it means to give back to your community and how your contributions can create a better world, as well as a better you.

It Makes Life Difficult for the Bad Guys

Harbor House is an organization dedicated to protecting domestic abuse survivors. When you contribute to organizations dedicated to protecting, you’re also providing abuse victims the resources to rebuild their lives. An organization with more resources to protect people makes it difficult for those who wish to prey on them. Organizations like Harbor House partner with law enforcement and child protective services for the purpose of preventing homicides and injuries.

Create a Legacy of Giving

When you contribute to a charitable organization, it makes a difference. Donations don’t necessarily have to be monetary. Harbor House accepts contributions in the forms of cleaning products, personal care items, and even pet food. Whether it be brightening someone’s day or saving a life, the effect will be felt throughout the community. More importantly, it may inspire someone else to do the same. The more you give, the more you inspire. And when you inspire, you cement a legacy that you and your loved ones can be proud of.

Misty Arner (right) dropping off the donations on behalf of the Florida Chapter.

It Looks Good on Paper

Doing volunteer work and contributing to non-profit organizations can help make you more marketable, especially when you are contributing in ways that are related to your chosen career or major. For example, contributing articles to volunteer organizations like STC can help to build your skillset and make your resume more appealing to potential employers. Being employed by an organization that wants to make the world a better place can be a great source of pride.

Regardless of your reasons to give back to your community, the overall benefits of doing so will always lead to positive results for both you, and the world around you.

Starting a Fire…

Excellence Column


By: Mike Murray
STC Fellow
Florida Chapter, STC

EDITOR’S NOTE: The original audience for this message was the STC Florida Chapter Administrative Council (AdCo). In it, the author, under whose leadership the chapter became one of STC’s most dynamic communities and accomplished so much over the past 2 decades, delivers some wisdom—and hopefully inspiration!—to the young leaders who are taking on a new and daunting challenge. It is republished here in Memo to Members as part of Mike’s column on Excellence.
******************************************************************

Date: January _, 2020
To: STC Florida Administrative Council
From: Mike Murray
Re: A New Year’s Challenge

Colleagues:
If you have spent any time as a Boy Scout or Girl Scout, you know how difficult it is to start a fire by rubbing two sticks together or by striking flint with a metal object. Like a fire, the hardest part about anything is just getting started. Once the fire gets started, it becomes easier to build and maintain it. That’s fine for a campfire, but what about things you can’t touch, things like a statewide STC chapter?

Foundation is #1!
In my three years as chapter president, I spent the entire first year solidifying the foundation. In the campfire analogy, that would mean finding some dry tinder and borrowing Joe’s cigarette lighter (I sure do miss Joe). In building a strong chapter, I approached people one at a time who I identified as having leadership skills and positioned them on the organization chart in places where I felt they could do the most good. That and some other things (e.g., finding a meeting place, establishing schedules, etc.) took my entire first year.

New World, Same Basics
Time went by and things changed — a lot, and yet, the basics remain. The first thing is always establishing a strong foundation. The current AdCo has done a wonderful job of establishing a strong foundation after identifying the correct foundation.

Here’s where things change. It’s one thing growing a chapter when all of your potential members are in a nearby metropolitan area, quite another when they are scattered out over an entire state. In the former example, all you need is a president with a big mouth and a place for meeting attendees to sit. I don’t have to tell you that that doesn’t work anymore. Things have become technology-driven and require sharp people who are familiar with the rapidly changing technology.

Thankfully, the Florida chapter has the best of the best, but even that is not enough. The other key ingredient to establish a successful virtual chapter is ”time.”

Time Takes Patience
 We would all love it if technical communicators statewide immediately recognized the value of participating in a virtual chapter, but that is going to take some convincing. Becoming comfortable with virtual technology is something that scares many people. In addition, many of the senior technical communicators are simply tired. They are not interested in learning yet another ”groundbreaking” technology. It will take time to convince them of the value they have been missing.

I can’t think of anybody in history who was more patient than Colonel Harlan Sanders, founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken. One thousand times he tried to convince restaurants and others of the value of using his chicken recipe. On his one thousand and first attempt, he was successful. Just imagine if he had gotten so disappointed that he quiet on his one-thousandth attempt. You never know if your next attempt will be the successful one.

Twelve publishers rejected J. K Rowling’s book about a boy wizard before a small London house picked up Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

Only those who dare to fail greatly can achieve greatly.                                                     —Robert F. Kennedy

My final advice to you is that you are doing an outstanding job—one that very few people would be brave enough to undertake. Just persevere and always remember Winston Churchill’s advice.

Never, never, never give up.
Winston Churchill, Battle of Britain, 1942

Churchill’s attitude may literally have saved the world at that time. Granted, saving STC may not be on the same level of gravity. But the fact remains, unless we move the Society into 21st-century technology, it is doomed.

You have created a spark. Let’s see what happens next.

January Meeting Recap

Lessons from New Tech Comm Professionals

By: James Yunik
Student Member

Florida Chapter, STC

As we begin this new year and decade, it is fitting that we turn our attention toward new beginnings in the world of technical communication. The January meeting of the Society for Technical Communication (STC) was held on Thursday the 23rd at Perkins in Winter Park, and hosted a panel of five new tech comm professionals with tips and perspectives on entering and excelling within the field.

Panel Members:

  • Winfield Pearson (employed by JHT Inc.)
  • Shawn Menard (employed by JHT Inc.)
  • Alexandra Engrand (employed by JHT Inc.)
  • Emily Wells (employed by Lockheed Martin)
  • Amy Truong (employed by JHT Inc.)

As a University of Central Florida (UCF) student and aspiring tech comm professional, here are the panelists’ points that stood out to me.

Job Hunting Strategies and Pointers
Expand your skillset and experience beyond writing. Augmenting your skillset with things like programming languages, desktop publishing software, or financial literacy gives you more to offer and—potentially—gives you the upper hand in a competitive market.

Don’t limit yourself to applying for jobs with “Technical Writer” in the job title! The skills you’ve developed in your education and life experience are useful in a variety of jobs and careers, especially in the wide field of technical communication. Read job descriptions and see where you might fit in.

Networking is an invaluable skill and habit that can help you jumpstart and maintain your career, especially when done in person. Joining professional groups (like STC!) and meeting with potential employers are great ways to learn about new opportunities and—just as importantly—make yourself known to those in the know.

Before meeting with a potential employer, read up on the organization as well as the role, and ask specific questions about both. Inquiring about nuances of the job, company culture, and policies shows that you are genuinely interested and invested in the opportunity. You’ll also learn more about possible directions for your life and career in the process. Also, don’t forget to follow-up on interviews with a thank you note or email!

Finally: don’t let rejection dampen your spirits. It’s literally impossible to win ‘em all.

The Benefits of Being New
For many companies, new professionals may represent much-needed change for their culture and knowledge base. Your status as a new recruit means you haven’t become rooted in outdated habits or modes of thinking, and it provides you with a license to learn. You can—and should—ask questions; doing so benefits both you and the company.

Tips on Starting Out
This may come as a surprise but as a technical writer, it is not unlikely that you won’t do much—or any—writing. Single-source publishing is gaining in popularity, so many companies are opting for programs like FrameMaker, Arbortext, and MadCap Flare. Consequently, knowledge of programming languages (like XML and HMTL) is increasingly valuable, and you may compile more documents than you compose.

Let go of the academic mentality of making a few revisions and forgetting your work once it’s graded. Within the professional world, the number of required revisions may be vastly greater and the revision timeline may be much longer!

Don’t be idle. Keep busy and write down everything you do in the course of your job. Records of your contributions are a valuable tool for self-advocacy. And since we’re on the topic…

It is crucially important that you advocate for yourself. Doing so not only means recording your contributions and keeping records of your communications, but also proactively representing your views and interests. It’s possible that others may advocate for you if you’re incredibly lucky, but luck is not a strategy. Don’t expect your future to fall into place; build it.

Top Takeaways From My First STC Meeting

By: Connor Elfrink
Florida Chapter, STC

Hi all! I’m Connor – current textbook editor and new member of the STC Florida Chapter. The January meeting featured a panel of young professionals who answered questions about their experience in the technical communications field. As a young professional myself, I found their tips super helpful – here are some of my favorites!

  1. Lessons you’d pass on to new tech writers:
  • Learn an additional skill (coding / HTML / etc).
    BUT…
  • Don’t stress if you haven’t mastered all skills. Mastery of one skill/software is evidence to employers you can master another
  1. Make a portfolio as you work: 
  • Keep track of/file your work as you go (for performance reviews, etc.). Doing this retroactively can be a daunting task!
  • Take 30 minutes each month to review/recap what you’ve done.
  • Keep copies of everything!
  1. Value of a portfolio:
  • Helps you to organize/prioritize what you value most about your work.
  • How to build a larger portfolio? (blogging!). Even if it’s writing about a random topic of interest, blogging shows your ability/commitment to writing.
  1. Does your employer support STC? 
  • They love it!”
  • Companies like when current employees are STC members. For one reason, this connects. employers to a larger pool of candidates to fill future job openings.

5. Recommendations for job search strategies/interviews?

  • Join STC! Networking helps push your resume through.
  • Be confident! Focus on / sell the skills you do have.
  • Apply for everything! Once you’re in the company, new positions can open up.
  • Research the company beforehand/mention specifics at the interview.

From the Editor’s Desk

Emily Wells

Technical Communicators of Florida and Beyond,

Welcome! It’s hard to believe that it’s already been another year. As we stand on the cusp of a new decade, I’m excited to bring you this month’s jam-packed and historic newsletter. 

To start, this month, we have our holiday reunion social! For more information, visit the RSVP page.

Next, last month, I had the honor of sharing with you the exciting news of a new graduate scholarship at the University of Central Florida (UCF), inspired by one of our amazing members, Mike Murray! This month, Karen Lane goes more in-depth on the scholarship and how you can help ensure this wonderful scholarship becomes permanently funded.

Speaking of Mike, today marks a historic moment for our chapter: the launch of our chapter history project, a 3-years-in-the-making project spearheaded by Mike. Read on as Mike and Dan Voss explain the enormous task undertaken by Mike and other members of our chapter to flesh out 43 years of our chapter’s history.

In addition, Mike and Dan also share the third installment in the Looking Back, Looking Forward column, this time focusing on communications strategy.

Next up, Amy Troung shares the exciting news about the successful 2019-2020 mentorship program kick-off meeting (this year marking 154 partnerships and counting)!

Finally, W.C. Wiese wraps up this month by recapping our November meeting/workshop focused on the Ethics of Intercultural Communication.

That’s all from me for now. I hope to see you at the social, and until next year…happy holidays!

Catch you on the flip side,

Emily Wells
Communications Chair
Editor, Memo To Members
newsletter@stc-orlando.org

A Special Holiday Appeal for a Very Special Cause

How You Can Help

By: Karen Lane
STC Fellow
Florida Chapter, STC

Mike Murray, STC Fellow and Florida Chapter Historian.

In last month’s newsletter, we told you about an exciting new initiative, inspired by STC Fellow and former chapter president Mike Murray: a self-perpetuating, permanently funded scholarship for the School of Communication Sciences and Disorders within the College of Health Professions and Sciences at the University of Central Florida.

Named the Mike Murray Make a Difference Scholarship, the fund will support graduate students in fields that are close to Mike’s heart. It is his fervent wish that his legacy will live on and that he will Make a Difference long past his lifetime.

Permanent funding for a scholarship is very simple and depends on only one thing: amassing enough money in the fund to start with so as to generate annual scholarships out of earnings instead of principal.

The founding donors got us partway there in November, but the scholarship fund will not be fully funded until it has reached $25,000. And that cannot happen without generous support from Mike’s colleagues and friends. He has helped so many over the decades of his career; now it’s time for us to help him achieve his lifelong goal.

Won’t you help by contributing as much as you can? The scholarship is part of the UCF Foundation, a 501(c)(3) entity, which means your donations are tax deductible to the extent permitted by law. Consult your financial advisor if tax deductibility applies to you. For many people, this is an added bonus to donating, but for others the true reward is the knowledge that you are helping to make a funded-for-now scholarship become a funded-forever scholarship.

Please give generously. Donations before the end of the year count for the current tax year, but donations at any time in any amount are most welcome.

Information on how to donate—it’s very easy and can be done online—can be found at the end of the article on the UCF website announcing the new scholarship and republished in the November Memo to Members.

For those who have already read the article launching the scholarship, here’s what you need to know to make a holiday donation to help make the fund a permanent legacy to Mike’s lifelong outreach to others.

Fundraising Announcement from UCF

A fundraising effort is currently underway to endow the Fund in perpetuity by December 31, 2019. It is currently 60 percent of the way to the threshold for endowment.

Contributions to the Mike Murray Make a Difference Scholarship Fund can be made via check to the UCF Foundation at 12424 Research Parkway, Orlando, FL 32826, or by credit card at ucffoundation.org/MikeMurray.

The UCF Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

Comprehensive History of Florida Chapter: “Hot Off the Press!” to Blaze a New Trail

Three-Year Project Bears Fruit!

By: Mike Murray and Dan Voss
STC Fellows
Florida Chapter, STC

“Oh, What Have I Done?” For nearly 3 years, Chapter Historian Mike Murray has wrestled mano-à-mano with 43 years of documentation to set the stage for this year’s community effort to compile and publish a comprehensive history of the STC Florida Chapter. -Photos by Kay Murray

Three years ago, Chapter Historian and STC Fellow Mike Murray undertook a massive project to compile a comprehensive history of our STC Florida community from its inception in 1977 to the present.

Today, with the publication of this article, the project reaches fruition with the unveiling of the STC Florida Chapter History on our website.

For the first 2 years, Mike worked assiduously off to the side, compiling a growing database including chapter officers and committee chairs, community and individual STC accomplishments, and 40 documents written by chapter members over the years that still bear relevance to our chapter’s present and future operations.

Early this year, it became evident that completing the chapter history was no one-person task, so Mike’s fellow Fellows, Dan Voss, W.C. Wiese, and Karen Lane jumped in. In the end, it “took a village” to complete the project. Nearly the entire extended Administrative Council, as well as three former chapter presidents, divided and conquered what appeared to be a nearly insurmountable task of reconstructing the chapter’s 43-year history from Day 1 to present.

Mission Accomplished!

We believe you will be delighted to see how it all came out.

The newly posted STC Florida Chapter History has four major elements:

  • A narrative Introduction providing a decade-by-decade summary of major chapter milestones in our 43-year journey. This is the best place to begin your exploration of the STC Florida Chapter History.
  • A detailed Chronology organized by chapter year from 1976-1977 through 2019-2020 providing a wealth of data including chapter officers and committee chairs, major community milestones, successful accomplishments and innovative projects that have consistently made us a leading community in the Society, and honors captured by the community and its members over the years, at both the Society and the chapter level. Feel free to search the Chronology for key names and events in chapter history.
  • A topical Index of 40 past documents written by chapter members that can help us avoid reinventing wheels as the chapter moves forward. We encourage you to browse these at your leisure.
  • An archive of Looking Back, Looking Forward columns from Memo to Members examining key past documents and linking them to the chapter’s current and future initiatives. The third column in this series also appears in this edition of MtM.

Rather than turning this article into a “guided tour” of the chapter history, we invite you to explore it for yourself. In so doing, we encourage you to also draw upon the extensive 23-year archives of our chapter newsletter to fill in the colorful tapestry of our long and rich community history.

A special hats-off to former chapter webmaster Jon Kessler who put in countless hours reformatting decades of chapter newsletters for easy accessibility on our website. Not only were these archives instrumental in researching and compiling the chapter history, they are also the perfect complement to the history for those who want “the rest of the story.”

We conclude this article by recognizing the many chapter members, past and present, who have put in so many hours this year to complete the chapter history—our “village”!

Acknowledgments

STC Fellow Mike Murray, Chapter Historian: Mike launched the chapter history project in 2017 and compiled an extensive database which served as the springboard to compiling this chronology and the chapter history.

STC Fellows W.C. Wiese, Karen Lane, and Dan Voss: W.C. supplied at least half the information for chapter years 2000-2001 through 2019-2020 by mining his extensive personal records. Karen compiled a topical index of 40 past documents with relevance to current and future chapter operations and also did all the final editing and formatting for the chronology. Dan visited Society Headquarters in Fairfax, VA, to sift through paper records and reconstruct the early history of the chapter.

Bethany Aguad, former chapter president, now a director on the Society’s Board: Bethany provided invaluable assistance in posting the chapter history and its numerous ancillary documents to the chapter website to support a December 2019 launch.

Liz Pohland, STC chief executive officer; Elaine Gilliam, meeting manager and community relations; Erin Gallalee, membership services manager; and Kobla Fiagbedzi, IT manager: Liz and her staff graciously opened STC’s online and paper archives to us. Without their support, the STC Florida Chapter history would have been much less comprehensive.

STC Florida Administrative Council and former presidents: Members of the expanded AdCo and three former chapter presidents played a key role by each reviewing the newsletters and their personal records for 2-3 chapter years to fully populate the chronology. AdCo members also had other key roles such as newsletter coverage of the chapter history launch (Emily Wells); an in-depth summary of the 2017-2018, 2018-2019, and 2019-2020 chapter years (Nick Ducharme); and a review of our history in the Community Achievement Awards (CAA) competition (Crystal Brezina). The assisting former chapter presidents were Kelli Pharo, Gail Lippincott, and Dick Hughes. Another key player was STC Fellow Dan Jones, who provided vital information on the chapter’s early years.

Mining the Crypt. Society Chief Executive Officer Liz Pohland (left) allowed STC Florida chapter member Dan Voss to enter the “inner sanctum” of STC’s extensive paper documents to reconstruct the chapter’s early history. Liz and STC staff members Erin Gallalee, membership manager (top center), and Kobla Fiagbedzi (bottom center) made Dan feel welcome in his first visit to STC Headquarters. Without their gracious assistance, the chapter history could not have been completed. -Photos by Erin Gallalee and Liz Pohland

Looking Back, Looking Forward

Communications Strategy Past, Present, and Future

By: Dan Voss and Mike Murray
STC Fellows
Florida Chapter, STC

This is the third installment of Looking Back, Looking Forward, a new column appearing periodically in Memo to Members. This installment examines our chapter’s communications strategy past, present, and future while presenting a year-end challenge for our chapter to consider in the upcoming new decade.

The Looking Back, Looking Forward series is also archived on the chapter history page on the Florida Chapter of the Society for Technical Communication (STC) website under the tab “Looking Back, Looking Forward.” 

What is the Basis of this Article?
The content of this article is based primarily on four documents, three from 2001-2007 and one much more recent, from 2017:

  • A Communication Awareness Plan written in July 2001 that describes a proposed external communication campaign to establish the then STC Orlando Chapter as a key player in the Central Florida technology industry
  • A Proposal to Establish an STC Orlando Media Kit submitted as an academic project in a University of Central Florida (UCF) technical communication course in February 2005
  • STC Communication Strategy, a detailed and well-written document outlining our community’s communication objectives for the 2006-2007 chapter year that remains remarkably relevant today
  • The STC Florida Chapter Communication Strategy developed by the chapter president and vice president in 2017, focusing on the newly renamed STC Florida Chapter’s initiative to re-establish a statewide STC constituency.

What Exactly is Communications Strategy?
What do we mean by communications strategy? That can mean a lot of things, including a comprehensive communication plan both internal to our organization (STC) and external to the Central Florida business community.

In the 2001 Communication Awareness Plan, communications strategy meant formulating specific plans to make sure businesses throughout Central Florida knew that as technical communicators, our talents extend far beyond just technical writing. In addition, we hoped to make technical communicators aware of the myriad job opportunities they might not realize they were qualified for.

The second document was a proposal to develop a media kit to tell STC Orlando’s story to Central Florida’s technology industry and the technical communicators supporting it.

The third document is an excellent example of a well-structured, detailed communication strategy that includes four specific objectives along with planned activities to achieve those objectives. The four objectives were Culture, Conversations, Credibility, and Celebration. It includes both external and internal elements of strategic communication, although its primary emphasis is on communication within STC.

Unlike the first two documents, which were aimed mostly at an external audience, the fourth document focused on an “internal” audience—engaging disenfranchised at-large STC members in Florida whose chapters had dissolved—with the ultimate goal of extending communication externally to Florida technical communicators in general.

In addition to these guiding documents, the chapter’s Coaches and Rising Stars in the 2017-2018 Leadership Development Program (LDP) built a comprehensive online Community Resources Toolkit presented at Leadership Day at the 2018 Summit in Orlando. These valuable resources for building/rebuilding an STC community remain available on our website. Key among them when it comes to communications strategy is a module of resources under the subtitle “Chapter Communications,” including the aforementioned 2017 STC Florida Chapter Communication Strategy. We will address that in more detail a little later.

Why is Building a Foundation So Important?
The 2001 Communication Awareness Plan was our chapter’s first stab (at least in this century!) at bringing the need for an overarching communications strategy to the forefront. Later that same year, chapter members Mike Murray and W.C. Wiese sat down with some of the prominent players in this topic at UCF, including Dr. Dan Jones, an STC Fellow.

At the time, the UCF curriculum listed “Technical Writing” as one of the university’s majors, but participation in this major had been dwindling. Earlier, Mike and W.C., in conjunction with STC Headquarters, had been successful in working with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in making a change to their Job Classification Guide from “Technical Writer” to “Technical Communicator.”

The UCF technical communication program, led by Dr. Jones, was successful in convincing the university to change the name of the major course of study to Technical Communication, and class sizes soon increased. With this step, we felt we had established an important foundation that had to be in place for the next big push in implementing an overall chapter communications strategy.

Any Successful Project Needs a Champion
However, following an auspicious start, effort on the communication strategy front was quiet until February 2005, as the chapter leadership team focused on numerous other important initiatives on the way to three consecutive Chapter of Distinction Awards in the Society’s Community Achievement Award (CAA) program.

The spotlight returned briefly to communication strategy in 2005 when a Proposal for an STC Orlando Media Kit was developed as a project in one of Dr. Jones’ UCF tech comm classes. The proposal was an excellent blueprint for developing the media kit, but the plan was never executed because no “champion” stepped forward to make it happen. Again, the chapter’s communication strategy initiative moved to the “back burner.”

In June 2006, the detailed Chapter Communication Strategy set the chapter’s strategic objectives for the upcoming 2006-2007 chapter year as described above. However, follow-up on that valuable strategic communications roadmap was minimal as chapter leadership again turned the community’s attention to other priorities.

New Chapter Leaders Take Up the Cause
Ten years later, in 2017, Chapter President Bethany Aguad and Vice President Nick Ducharme picked up the baton, establishing a visionary integrated STC Florida Chapter Communication Strategy designed to launch and sustain the new STC Florida Chapter’s initiative to rebuild STC’s constituency in Florida by strengthening a then anemic virtual component in our communication toolkit.

Now, as we approach 2020, the chapter has moved to the cutting edge in leveraging virtual communication technology to support our statewide STC educational outreach effort. All our educational chapter meetings are now available remotely, and we have established proof of principle for a “hybrid” meeting format combining a face-to-face meeting in Orlando with a virtual audience from all over the state (and beyond). We also have established virtual networking meetings to build the statewide STC community.

In short, we have made great strides in internal STC communications within Florida.

Public Relations Effort Still Languishes
However, to the external audience, the general public, technical communication still remains a relatively less well-known and even less understood career. Depending on where you are in the world, under the umbrella of “technical communicator” you may be called a technical writer, a technical author, an information developer, a documentation specialist, an editor, or yet another job title.

Chances are that if you tell the average person you are a technical communicator, you will receive a blank stare or a blunt question—what’s that? Even when you begin to explain, many people will still have the wrong impression, thinking you write technical books or technical code, rather than performing a broad range of job functions spanning a wide variety of industries and making a critical contribution to the bottom line.

Our Newest Communications Challenge
This survey of four past chapter sorties into communications strategy leaves us with an important public relations challenge going forward. This would be an excellent time to resurrect the long-dormant initiative to build an STC Florida Media Kit. Instead of STC members statewide, however, the initial target audience should be Central Florida technical communicators and the companies and organizations they work for. Ultimately, the idea would be to extend this outreach throughout Florida. To accomplish this mission, we need to:

  • Develop an updated chapter brochure, both printed and online, to increase our visibility in Central Florida and statewide
  • Post the brochure as well as flyers announcing chapter educational meetings on bulletin boards at Florida businesses that have a technical communication staff
  • Add a public relations component to our website inviting businesses with technical communication requirements to consider STC as a primary resource for meeting those requirements
  • Add a social media component to the Media Kit, including more active use of our LinkedIn portal.
  • Revitalize the Gloria Jaffe Award by promoting it in the workplace to elevate the professional status of technical communicators as key contributors to business success
  • Partner with corporate sponsors to provide increased resources to support our statewide professional and educational outreach
  • Over time, develop Local Interest Groups (LIGs) of the STC Florida Chapter statewide, reaching out to technological industry and technical communicators in their respective locations. 

In short, we need to “brand” ourselves in an eye-catching manner that captures the interest and support of Florida’s burgeoning technology industry. 

This initiative should move to the top of STC Florida’s priority list. But how?

We Need a New Champion!
Ay, there’s the rub. Our core leadership team is already stretched to the limit without taking on yet another pacesetting STC initiative—but, paradoxically, a successful foray into the Central Florida public relations arena could expand our ranks and result in more member resources as well as industry sponsorships. This, in turn, could pave the way for similar growth statewide.

If this is to happen, we need a champion to lead the charge and two or three volunteers to help broadcast our message to the public. To spearhead this drive, our chapter needs to fill its too-long-vacant position for a Public Relations manager.

What a terrific mentor/mentee project this public relations project would make! It might also be a suitable academic project for a technical communication course at UCF, just like the proposal for an STC Orlando Chapter Media Kit back in 2005. But this time, let’s take it the rest of the way.

It is time to get this done!

FTC/STC Student Mentoring Program Kicks Off 17th Year With Strong Line-Up of Eight Mentor/Mentee Pairs

154 Mentor/Mentee Partnerships Since 2003!

By: Amy Truong
Student Member
Florida Chapter, STC

WE HAVE LIFT-OFF! Mentors and mentees in the 2019-2020 FTC/STC student mentoring program met at Olive Garden to kick off the program’s 17th year by setting objectives for their mentoring partnerships. –Photo by W.C. Wiese

The Future Technical Communicators (FTC) Club at the University of Central Florida (UCF) and the Florida Chapter of the Society for Technical Communication (STC) are happy to announce a successful launch of their student mentoring program for the 2019-2020 academic year. This year, seven current UCF students and one UCF graduate signed up to be mentored by seven professionals in the STC Florida Chapter.

The kickoff was held on Wednesday, November 6, at the Olive Garden restaurant by UCF.

This Year’s Program Doubles Last Year’s Participation

This year’s eight mentees mark an uptick in participation from last year’s four mentor/mentee pairings. From the 2003-2004 academic year to the 2019-2020 academic year, there have been a total of 154 pairings. A complete history of the highly successful 17-year program as well as the FTC presidency and faculty advisorship, is available on the mentoring page of the STC Florida Chapter website.

Of particular note is the fact that Dr. J.D. Applen has served as faculty advisor for FTC for the entire 17 years and has made the student mentoring program the organization’s top priority.

To ensure a smooth start for the kick-off meeting, mentoring program coordinator and Education Committee manager Misty Arner, herself a former mentee and now a mentor, arrived at the restaurant early to arrange the seating so the pairs would be seated next to each other. As the mentors and mentees arrived, they found their seats by locating a copy of their mentorship application on the table. Once the pairings were announced, mentors and mentees were able to turn to their partners and work on the mentorship agreement form to establish their objectives for their partnership.

“It went so smoothly,” Arner said. “They were all surprised to find themselves seated next to who they were paired with.”

Pondering the Pairings

The Saturday before the kick-off, Arner, her predecessor Dan Voss, and FTC President Amy Truong spent five hours at an IHOP restaurant combing through the mentor/mentee summary forms and mentorship program applications to make the best pairings. At the end of the five hours, there were five successful and three tentative pairings pending confirmation of mentor and mentee schedule availability. In the end, everything worked out great, and every student was paired with a mentor whose areas of subject matter expertise matched their interests in technical communication.

FTC Vice President John Clement, who was paired with David Coverston, had this to say about the kickoff:

“The kickoff meeting was a great start to my mentorship experience. I got to meet my mentor David over dinner, and we shared our hopes for the program. Already, I can tell there is a lot I can learn from him. I’m particularly interested in developing my software documentation skills and working with him to build a strong writing portfolio. In the future, I’m sure there is even more we can work on together, which will help me become a better technical writer.”

One pair who were absent at the kick-off was Voss and Michaela Berg, who met via telephone and a Discord video connection where the mentee coached the mentor. The two will complete most of their mentoring sessions virtually and meet when they can. Berg, an online UCF student who lives in Jacksonville, first expressed interest in FTC in October through email. VP Clement sent Berg the minutes from our first general body meeting and welcomed her to the club.

This year’s mentor/mentee partnerships included a dual pairing with James Yunik and Jennifer “Skye” Smith sharing one veteran mentor. W.C. Wiese has graciously volunteered to take on the two mentees this year, meeting face-to-face to work on common interests and via email to pursue the individual mentees’ objectives.

A Great Start!

Of the kick-off meeting, Smith said, “It was great to see all of the members meet with their mentors and speak about their technical writing passions over an Italian dinner.”

Arner reports that mentee Kurt Ramos, who is paired with Alex Garcia, kept the table laughing all night long with his jokes.

“Everyone had a great time,” Arner said. “We were all laughing and getting to know each other. It was such a successful meeting.”

We here at FTC and STC wish the eight new mentor/mentee pairs all the best and a successful program year.

HITTING IT OFF! Nothing makes a mentoring program coordinator happier than to see a new mentoring partnership get off to a rousing start. Mentee Kurt Ramos (left) and veteran mentor Alex Garcia kept things lively over a sumptuous Italian dinner. –Photo by W.C. Wiese

FINALLY! With eight mentor/mentee partnerships established after a very busy three months, mentoring program coordinator Misty Arner gets to relax and celebrate at the kick-off meeting for what promises to be one of the long-standing program’s most successful years. –Photo by W.C. Wiese